Estimating Consumption Deprivation in India using Survey Data: A State-Level Rural-Urban Analysis before and during Reform Period
This paper assesses deprivation in India employing a measure proposed by Sitaramam and using consumption data at the household level. As cereals constitute a staple food and form a major portion of expenditure on food, the deprivation measure considered here is deprivation in cereal consumption. The total expenditure at which the Engel curve for cereals turns from concave to convex is taken as the cut-off to determine the deprived households. It is shown that cereal deprivation at the all-India level exhibits a declining trend over the period 1987-88 and 1999-2000, in the rural sector, while there is little change in the urban sector. Further, this decline in cereal deprivation seems to have been slowing down during the reform period. The estimates of deprivation are poorly correlated with the HCI and PGI at state level, both in rural and urban sectors. They, however, have better temporal correlations with those poverty measures. We offer some explanation for these observed differences in alternate deprivation indices. The trends in cereal deprivation are accompanied in some cases by a decline, in real terms, in maximum cereal consumption of each group of consumers. Whether this is an improvement or otherwise of the living standards of the poor, must await further analysis of per capita food consumption in general, with an analysis of prices and quantities of various food items. It is hoped that this kind of study on deprivation of essential commodities may increase our understanding of poverty, and even suggest direct intervention strategies.
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